- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Ralph Nader ended his Green Party presidential bid the way he started, pushing for every vote and brushing off Democrats' complaints that he was helping Republican George W. Bush.

"I did not run for president to help elect one or the other of the two major candidates," Mr. Nader said. He spoke at a news conference in front of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia before returning to Washington to await the day's results.

He predicted grandly, "Tomorrow, the Green Party will emerge as the third largest party in the world."

Mr. Nader, the consumer advocate turned presidential candidate, kept up his appeals for supporters to "vote their conscience," whether or not they live in states with close races between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush.

Mr. Nader needed 5 percent of the national vote to qualify his Green Party for federal campaign funds in the 2004 elections. He had hovered just below that mark in national polls but had registered higher in some states.

Fearing Mr. Nader's popularity in those states — particularly Minnesota, Michigan, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin — would cost Mr. Gore the election, Democrats told Nader supporters that "a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush."

Mr. Nader's role as a potential spoiler also put him under pressure from longtime friends and allies once closely aligned with his progressive views.

But he remained defiant and unapologetic, urging people to support a "viable third party" that would serve as a watchdog for Republicans and Democrats long after Election Day.

Mr. Nader's longshot campaign emphasized his criticism of big business and the two-party political system. He has long insisted that no major differences exist between the Democrats and the Republicans — or their presidential candidates.

"The two parties have morphed into a corporate party representing the same business interests at the same dinners, at the same hotels, day after day after day," he said.

Many of his supporters are disenchanted Democrats who feel abandoned by a party that has moved toward the center.

"I think that the pressure the Green Party is already placing on the Democratic Party is going to make the Democratic Party either fight harder or … lose more ground to the Republican Party that it has chosen to imitate over the last 20 years," he said. "I think that, already, progressive Democrats are being treated with greater respect."

Mr. Nader felt his candidacy was badly hurt by his exclusion from the presidential debates. Sponsors required 15 percent support in national polls.

Nevertheless, Mr. Nader aggressively campaigned, holding rock concert-like rallies that attracted thousands of people — paying an average of $10 apiece — in Boston, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Washington and other cities.

Mr. Nader is best known as the consumer advocate who in the 1960s took on the automobile industry's safety standards. Since then, he has pushed for automatic seat belts and other safety devices in cars and for passage of federal legislation to improve the air, food, water and the environment.

His nearly four decades of advocacy helped Mr. Nader stretch his campaign's $7 million budget.

Mr. Nader never expected to win the presidency but hoped to turn the Green Party into a watchdog that could not be ignored by the major parties.

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